today I'm taking a detour from adventures once again and present to you Misfit Studios' "The Spellweaver" for PFRPG!
This pdf is 89 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving 85 pages of content, so what exactly is this spell weaving?
Spell weaving essentially is a skill-and point-based alternative to the standard vancian casting-system for arcane magic. By manipulating the strands of reality itself, hidden from the eyes of regular folks, Spellweavers can duplicate effects of regular spells. They do so via new int-based class-skill called spellweaving. In order to counteract the difficulties associated with skills being usable as often as one would like, the base-class Spellweaver also features a number of weaves per day. This means that every spell costs only one weave-attempt, but the DCs naturally vary. The base-class of the Spellweaver is what you'd expect of a primary caster: d6, 1/2 BAB, good will save, 2+Int skills per level. Spellweavers start with 4 weaves per day and can reach up to 40 at 20th level, suffer from arcane failure chance and similar traditional penalties just as much as their regular counterparts, but in order to counteract their supreme flexibility, their way of spell-casting naturally comes with a sort of penalty: If they botch their weaving attempts, the results can be dire indeed and result, when greatly overstepping one's boundaries in casting the equivalent of high-level spells too soon, in even death. No one is keeping the weaver from trying, though - potentially, this can lead to rather exiting situations at the table.
Note that not every botched attempt has to have severe repercussions and a rather complex table is provided. It should be noted that topics like collective weaving, weave-traps etc. are covered as well, making the spell-weaver feel distinct beyond his access to a wide array of known magical forces.
To make matters more exiting, the concept of weave-saturated areas (i.e. places of power) is introduced as well, making for a neat take on the trope of ley-lines and similar places of power( or dead magic). The interaction of spell-weaving and regular casting is given quite a detailed depiction and spellcraft, dispelling and spellweaving the divine is covered as well - depending on the DM's world, the gods may frown upon those who seek to usurp the powers they grant their faithful, potentially necessitating +3d4 DC to weaving divine spells. For those wanting to completely exchange the vancian casting system advice is provided as well as advice on how to handle PrCs not originally designed for the Spellweaver and how to handle tweaking them.
No PFRPG class would be complete without the customization options provided by archetypes and thus the Spellweaver also provides some: The primal weaver weaves rather intuitively (thus more unstable) and can fall into weave-powered rages. The Puppet Master is essentially the enchantment/manipulation specialist, the Reader uses his ability to perceive the weave to better avoid damage and learns to extend his/her senses and the Weaver Shaman follows a shamanistic understanding of the weave as a kind of anima universalis.
Prestige Classes specifically designed for the spellweaver are included in the package:
-The Battle Weaver (d8, 2+Int skills, full BAB, medium fort, 7 level casting progression) is a kind of barbarian/spell weaver gish that can imbue his weapon and armor with the power of the weave.
-The Cartomancer (d4, 4+Int skills, 1/2 BAB, medium will-save, full spell-progression) is an intriguing concept: By expanding senses over the weave, these fellows can create maps of surrounding areas, but without giving all the details like furniture and inhabitants away. At higher levels, their clairsentient powers improve and become more precise. I'm not sold on the d4 HD, though - according to PFRPG-design standards, that should be a d6, especially due to this PrC being anything but too strong.
-The Fated (d6, 4+Int skills per level, 1/2 BAB, medium will-save, full spell-progression) are another matter entirely - they can, via the weave, manipulate destiny itself and borrow skills and feats and even bar their foes from using them via their mystic connection to the weave. An interesting class, for sure, but one that necessitates careful watching.
-The Weave Dancer (d6, 4+Int skills, 1/2 BAB, medium fort- and ref-saves, 1/2 spell progression) is the monk/spellweaver multiclass and feels a bit odd - The table provides a better flurry of blows atk-bonus progression than a regular BAB-progression: at 10th level, it presumes +5 BAB for regular attacks and +9/+9/+4/+4/-1 for flurry of blows, which points towards a rather grievous formatting glitch here.
Next up is a new race, the Ardekh - spiderlike humanoids that worship the weave and would make for disturbing characters: They get their full age, height & weight tables, +2 Dex and Int, -2 Cha, Darkvision 60 ft., Weave Sight as a bonus feat, +2 natural armor, all-around vision (immunity to flanking when not flat-footed), +2 to Spellweaving, a climb-speed of 20ft. (and +8 to climb checks) and reduced penalties for fighting with multiple weapons. In case you didn't notice by that array of powers, a "challenge-rating adjustment" of +2 is presumed till level 6, then +1, hitting one of my absolute pet-peeves: I always hated the ECL-system of 3.5 and the balance-problems it brought and this essentially is a ECL+2-race that does not conform with PFRPG-design standards, essentially rendering the race's appeal as a player-race null and void. We also get 7 new traits, 2 of which are for the new race.
Chapter 3 deals with feats and kicks off with a vast list of feats and how they interact with spell-weaving - the level of support provided is awesome and something that sets the pdf apart - it takes the APG, Ultimate Magic and Ultimate Combat into account and lists them over several pages before introducing us to 55 new feats. These new feats are rather interesting, as they deal not only with weave-interaction, but also with adding metamagic effects to weaves( thus increasing the DC). More interesting are the elemental or specialization-style feats that increase the DC for e.g. spells with the [fire] or [acid]-descriptor, but add a burning effect, temporarily deafen foes etc. While limited in appliance, these feats do allow a customization that is nice to see. Not all of them are what I'd consider well-balanced, though: Thanatopic Spellweave for example, makes it possible to use death and negative energy effects against undead or beings sheltered by a death ward. The explanation is that the animating force is turned against them, but the repercussions of this feat are rather wide and any ability that ignores any protection from it, especially when it's such a feat, is wide open to abuse. Plus: Undead can already be hurt via positive energy. Adding negative energy to the mix just feels wrong to me. Spell Eater is another feat I consider BROKEN: If you add +5 to the DC of a save you have to make and succeed at it, you regain 1/2 the attacking spell's level, minimum 1 weaves. Can you see what this feat will make the players do? Can you see the wizards casting touch of fatigue unlimited times on their ally, the spellweaver regaining 1 weave per save? I can, and I don't like it. While most of the feats are well-designed, exceptions like these, practically screaming "Abuse me" somewhat cast a tarnish on an otherwise excellent chapter.
Chapter 4 then delivers the true meat f the book - tables upon tables that e.g. contain the modifications to the DC for regular respective levels of the spellweaver to cast (adding e.g. +27 for 9th level spells at 1st character level, ensuring that no level 1 spellweaver will meteor swarm foes to oblivion) and providing all the tools to convert e.g. 3pp-spells to the spell-weaving system: Range, school (and sub-school), area of effect, saving throw, duration, casting time etc. - everything influences the final DC of the weave and the final chapter provides the basic DCs (still to be modified by the weaver's relative level to the spell) of the spells from the Core-book, the APG, UM and UC - an awesome convenience that takes a LOT of work off your hands. Even better, an excel- calculator is included in the deal.
Finally, we get new weave-themed beasts: Apart from the Ardekhs, we get the new Loomer-race (Cr 1/2 - evil djinn-influenced creatures), varying weave-elementals, the weave-embraced template (CR +1), the undead Weave Haunt (CR 4) and the spider-like weavelings (CR 3) as well as a variant of the rotgrub hazard tat inhabits the weave. The pdf concludes with 4 pages of an extremely useful quick reference appendix. A write-up of a weave-centric goddess is also included in the deal, btw.
Editing and formatting were good, though not perfect: Some lines that should have been bold weren't etc. More important, there are some design-remnants of 3.5 unfortunately interspersed in an otherwise excellent conversion, like e.g. the aforementioned d4. The flurry of blows table of the weave dancer needs a revision. Layout adheres to a clear and easy-to-read 2-column standard and comes with beautiful full-color artworks. The pdf is fully bookmarked, comes with an artless, printer-friendly b/w-version and the aforementioned calculator, which is nice (though the calculator doesn't work with my version of excel - something you should be aware of). Oh boy. This one is oh so hard to rate. On the one hand, we get a neat, interesting alternate system of spellcasting that feels well-balanced and not half as prone to breaking as I had expected, a vast amount of support and stellar feats. On the other hand, we get a race with an ECL (that should be either just an NPC-race or needs a revision), a d4 HD in a PrC, a faulty table with another PrC and one little fact: As much as I liked the base-class, none of the PrCs or archetypes for that matter felt truly compelling. The cartomancer is a great idea, but feels a bit weak and like an excuse to give player hand-out maps, something that could also be done via other investigative means - this PrC actually needs MORE power. If you're looking for a skill-based magic-system, the spell-weaver will cater to your needs and provide a cool, flexible alternative to regular casters that could enrich e.g. a non-orthodox magic tradition in your campaign.
Were I to rate the base-class and the basic system/support provided alone, this would be 5 Rudii. If you're in for the whole deal, you'll have to be aware of aforementioned rough-edges, though. Should the 3.5-design-remnants I found be taken care of and e.g. the Ardekh-race nerfed to the point of being usable as a player-race, I'd gladly give the whole package 4 or even 4.5 Rudii. As written, though, some rough-edges of a first foray into PFRPG-rules are still evident and diminish the overall appeal of the book. Thus, for now, my final verdict will be 3.5 Rudii.
Ever wanted to know more about draconic parentage in humanoids? Fantastic Gallery has the Children of the Wyrm for you!
Children of the Wyrm
This pdf is 32 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page blank inside of front cover, 1 page ToC, 1 page back cover, 1 page blank inside the back cover, 1 page SRD and 1 page advertisement, leaving 25 pages of content, so let's check out this offering, shall we?
We all know that dragons can produce offspring and that half-dragons exist as well as that many a sorceror draws his power from his lineage. But what in-between? How does the transition from clearly draconic being to dormant power happen? This pdf kicks in with a discussion of exactly that by introducing the term "legacy" and discussing the transition from 1st generation legacy half-dragon to draconic legacy sorcerors of up to the 30th generation.
Starting at the beginning, the first complex template we get is for the legacy half-dragon (CR +3), which includes natural attacks for 3 sizes and 10 different draconic inheritances. Draconic inheritances include breath weapons (which are always part of the package) and 3 different sample legacies (bronze, silver and gold) à 3 recommended abilities that include luck, faster flight and similar gifts. A CR 7 sample character is included to illustrate the application of the template.
After that, we get the Quarter-Dragon (CR+2) complex template, again with natural attacks by size and 5 draconic inheritance options, again including breath weapons and 3 inheritances we already know from the half-dragon. However, the quarter-dragon must use an inheritance to gain access to a breath-weapon. Wings aren't included in the package either and thus one inheritance can gain access to them. There's a formatting glitch that reads "half-dragon" instead of "quarter-dragon" in the breath-weapon entry. We get another sample character, this time a rather complex one - a CR 13 quarter-dragon ninja! COOL!
One step further down the lineage, the greater draconic legacy creature-template adds +1 to the CR (minimum 2) and gains either a breath weapon, or one of 3 possible draconic inheritances, which we at this point already know from the other templates. There's a formatting glitch that reads "half-dragon" instead of "greater draconic legacy creature" in the breath-weapon entry. Greater draconic legacy creatures don't get a bite, but only claw attacks. We get a sample NPC at Cr 10 this time a sorceress.
Finally, there's the lesser draconic creature (CR +1, minimum 1), which can't get access to breath weapons, but to one of 3 draconic inheritances and natural claws as weapons. Again, we get a sample character, this time a rogue at CR 8.
Finally, there a kind of minor template, the draconic legacy sorceror - essentially, the template/page describes how sorcerors of draconic bloodlines and the templates in this book interact and how being a half-dragon AND a draconic bloodline sorceror enhances the power granted by one's lineage.
We also get 6 feats, ranging from being more agile flyers to gaining an elemental aura, additional draconic inheritances, additional breath-weapon uses and a 1st-level feat that bumps you up one step on your lineage as well as the ability to add energy damage to your weapon. We also get 6 sample traits that include improved natural healing and graceful aging.
On the magic item-side, we get a lesser hat of disguise, the hat of racial purity, that disguises one part of your lineage. The Staff of the Dragon is an ok staff with thematically-linked powers and the ring of draconic presence can frighten foes.
Finally, we get an optional one-page table on which characters generated with this pdf can roll d%s to determine cosmetic features that set the character apart like a snout, vestigial wings etc.
Part 2 of the pdf is rather interesting - it includes information on pregnancy with draconic children of all varieties as well as rules for the rather difficult birth and labor. While only a short section, it comes with a variety of tables for the different kinds of draconic beings introduced in this book and is the most innovative and, in my opinion, cool and unique chapter of the pdf.
Editing and formatting are very good - I only noticed one minor formatting glitch, as mentioned in the review. The pdf is extensively bookmarked and comes with an artless, printer-friendly additional version. Art and layout are a good cue - The layout of this book adheres to a 2-column standard and is STUNNING. Beautiful. Glorious. And the same holds true for the GORGEOUS artworks. The cover is indeed just as beautiful as the interior artwork - only 2 pieces, on page 23 and 24 fall short of a quality that could be found in a paizo-publication. The artists Jon Hodgson, Talon Dunning, Jonathan Kaufman, Matt Manard and Lorraine Schleter did a great job. The content per se is neat, but before I get into details, I'll have to come clear. I don't like half-dragons. I consider them overdone, predictable and a dilution of draconic awesomeness, especially since the 3.5-days.
This pdf thus has a hard standing with me and addresses at least some of my gripes with half-dragons, namely that they seemed to exist in a vacuum - no-one knew how they gestated, how their blood dilutes etc. and this pdf acts as a comprehensive guide that adds variety to them. The option to scale them and their generational special features are rather nice, as they add to their variability. The second chapter is especially worth a read. However, not all is perfect in this supplement: My first gripe is that only the gold, silver and bronze-bloodlines are covered. While I do realize that more would have expanded the book, that's exactly what this one would need: Expansion. Evil bloodlines for example. More options for draconic inheritances and coverage of at least the basic kinds of dragons (or at least all the good ones in this and all the evil ones in a companion pdf) would have been neat.
My second gripe with this pdf is that there is no racial option that truly caters to draconic player characters, as all of the templates add at least 1 to the CR. While depending on the player's options you use this might not necessarily upset your game, the options presented herein are more powerful than standard-races. That means players looking for a PFRPG-variant of the Dragonborn won't find one in these pages, which is a huge pity, as I think that the potential to create such a being is definitely here and within the capabilities of authors Talon Dunning and Shane O'Connor. If you don't like Half-Dragons, this pdf will probably not change that. What it does, though, is put them into a context within the overall setting and thus make them less vacuous. Even better, the quality of the overall production and the price make this a rather interesting book to make the by-now predictable half-dragon more versatile. I fully expected to despise the book personally and approached it on my reviewer-perspective. Surprisingly, I did enjoy what I finally read and consider this pdf a worthwhile investment for DMs seeking to spice up draconic characters in their game. If the pdf was longer and featured all draconic bloodlines and more inheritances (perhaps even unique ones for different age-categories) to choose from, I'd immediately score this 5 Rudii. As written, I still consider this book a good resource with afore-mentioned minor shortcomings, thus my final verdict will be 4 Rudii.
All right, that's it for now - see you next time around! As always, thank you for reading my ramblings,